Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron’s 27-yard touchdown run gave the Raiders the lead in fourth quarter Saturday at Oak Hill High in Wales. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)
WALES — Gavin Rawstron had just finished being helped to the Oak Hill sideline when Yarmouth’s Jack Ricciardi broke free for a 33-yard touchdown run, putting the Clippers up by two scores in the closing minutes of the third quarter and dealing a pair of blows to the Raiders’ chances for a season-opening victory.
It was an opportunity for frustration and disappointment to set in. The Oak Hill players didn’t let that happen.
“We needed to realize, this is where the seniors come in, we need to all realize how hard we work,” senior defensive lineman Reid Cote said. “We had (more than a) quarter left. There’s time on the clock.”
There was, and Oak Hill took advantage of it. Rawstron returned behind center and led the Raiders back, and a rejuvenated defense held on for a 21-19 victory over Yarmouth that, for coach Stacen Doucette, gave plenty of early indications of his team’s mental toughness.
“That’s what we talked about. At one point we had four players go down with cramps,” Doucette said. “I think we played up around 20 varsity players, in a game that was won in the last minute. So we’re pretty satisfied with that. The future is bright.”
One of those players was Rawstron, the Oak Hill quarterback and safety, who went down with calf cramps after making a tackle on the first play of Yarmouth’s second drive of the half and needed help getting off the field.
“After I tackled him and rolled to the ground, both my muscles in my calves cramped up. I couldn’t walk,” he said. “I had a cramp last night before I went to bed. As soon as it happened I went, ‘Oh, I know what’s going on.’ ”
The bad news continued for the Raiders as Yarmouth finished an 89-yard drive, getting a 32-yard run from Sam Mason (16 carries, 57 yards) and then the run from Ricciardi (16 carries, 98 yards) to go up 19-7 with 4:39 to go in the third, and cramps struck again when backup quarterback Liam Rodrigue went down while punting on Oak Hill’s next series.
That further bit of misfortune was actually the turning point, as the punt pinned Yarmouth at its own 7, and after a three-and-out, Caleb Treadwell returned a Clippers punt to the Yarmouth 13. Rawstron, still moving gingerly, came back and needed two plays to convert, slinging a 12-yard pass to Treadwell for a touchdown to bring the Raiders — following an extra point by the equally hobbled Rodrigue — within 19-14 with 11:08 to play.
“It was nice, knowing the team’s there and had my back,” said Rawstron, who finished 3-of-12 for 42 yards and two touchdowns. “They were like, ‘All right, you scared us there, but now that you’re back, let’s go score.’”
The ensuing kickoff pinned Yarmouth at its own 4, and the Oak Hill defense held again, giving the offense back the ball in prime field position again at the Yarmouth 27. This time, Rawstron needed only one play to put his team in the end zone, racing 27 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 8:42 to play.
“On the read option, I saw that tackle bite,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, no one’s there. Let’s hope I can get in before anyone gets to me.’”
“The best part of that is that there were wide receivers blocking downfield,” Doucette said. “It’s not one person, it’s 100 percent everybody. You had 11 people working on that play. That play does not happen if the wide receiver doesn’t block.”
The defense took it from there, holding Yarmouth to a three-and-out and then consecutive turnovers on downs. Oak Hill allowed only 29 yards on four drives in the fourth quarter.
“It’s such a good feeling, because we worked as a team. It was all our team,” Cote said. “We were looking down, maybe, and then the light sparked. … We got that excitement, and then we were all making plays. It was a different person making the play, every time.”
Yarmouth struck first on its opening drive, getting a 2-yard run from quarterback Noah Eckersley-Ray (13 carries, 60 yards) for a 6-0 lead with 8:09 left in the first. Oak Hill jumped in front when Rawstron hit Rodrigue and the junior broke a tackle for a 19-yard score with 2:28 to go in the quarter, but Yarmouth took the lead back when Eckersley-Ray ran 23 yards for a score with 3:07 left in the first half.
Oak Hill saved its best for the end, but Clippers coach Jason Veilleux said the disappointing result didn’t hide the positives from the game.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids in new positions for the first time, and our kids didn’t give up. They showed tremendous fight up right to the very end,” he said. “We just made a couple of mental errors that we’ll learn from and hopefully grow from.”
Oak Hill wide receiver Caleb Treadwell runs away from the Yarmouth defense during Saturday’s game at Oak Hill High in Wales. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)